A Little Fun at the Wax Museum

The best way to finish off this Washington DC travel series is with a little fun at the wax museum. There is no historical significance to this post. It is just good old fashion fun. Personally, I love wax museums. Each one is different and usually specializes in what is popular in the area. Washington DC wax museum was all about presidents and historical features. So, even though we visited to have a little fun it actually reinforced what we learned during our time in Washington DC.

What can I say? My family is a bunch of hams! I hope you enjoyed this travel series. If you want to start from the beginning please go here. Washington DC was a trip of a lifetime. The memories will live on with my family forever.

Until next time ~ Happy Travels!

Smithsonian Air and Space, History Museum and National Archives

It is easy to see the Smithsonian Air and Space, History Museum and National Archives in one day. All three are big hits for different reasons.

Air and Space Museum

Air and Space Museum is a family favorite because it is interactive and fun. There is a 3D Imax movie theater that plays new releases after 5:00. This is a great museum to hit after lunch because you can end your day at the movies!

Smithsonian Air and Space museum gives an excellent history of the industry, however it is not cutting edge. It you are wanting to see the latest and greatest this is not the place. The technology showcased id out of date. You will leave with an appreciation of how air and space has come. The hands on discovery area is excellent! It is a great way to learn about basic physics and scientific principles for all ages.

Discovery Area at the Air and Space Museum.

National Archives

The National Archives is home to the nation’s founding documents. It is open to the public. There are no pictures of inside the building because taking them is not allowed as to the safety and preservation of the flag and documents contained here. In addition to the first American flag, one can find the constitution, Bill of Rights and 10 Amendments.

Smithsonian National American History Museum

The first thing one sees when entering the Smithsonian National American History Museum is the Bat Mobil from the Batman movie.

The museum can get quite crowded so it is best to start on the third floor and work down. My oldest was excited to find Kermit the Frog in glass case on the top floor. Though one would think this museum would be full of older items from our Founding Fathers there is also lots of pop culture that every generation recognizes.

The First Ladies Dress Collection along with each President’s China is fantastic to see. The china was an unexpected surprise. The stories behind the sets gave insight into the first families that have served in the White house. It is fun to see the correlation between the china sets to the dresses the First Ladies wore. You could see their personalities and a little glimpse into who there were as individuals. Some of the First Ladies opted not to get sets and use what was in the White house. Others just ordered more to what was there. The First Lady is responsible for hosting dinners and such. Having appropriate dinnerware is crucial.

There was another area that was fun. It was like the pop culture walk down memory lane. I felt old when I saw things from my childhood — like the “See and Say”. Julia Child’s kitchen was also on display along with Sesame Street puppets.

Of course there were national treasures like President Lincoln’s top hat and remains of ships that sailed into harbors during the Civil War.

Please check out the first blog post on traveling to Washington DC here.

Until next time ~ Happy Travels!

Arlington National Cemetery

Arlington National Cemetery is so much more than what the name implies. Not only is it our most treasured cemetery in the nation, it also has a rich deep history. The Cemetery was born out of betrayal and hurt. It was the home of Robert E. Lee — the General of the Confederate Army. Ulysses S. Grant was the General of the Union Army and friends with Lee before the war. Both high ranking military men that had an opportunity to lead the Union Army. Lee decided to take up arms with the Confederate Army because his state (Virginia) was a confederate state. After the war was lost his property was confiscated by the United States government and turned into a cemetery to disgrace him. Tours of the house are still available, however when I visited the home was under construction and could not be viewed.

The Grounds

Upon arrival at Arlington it is a good idea to pay for tram tickets to see all the grounds and the Tomb of the Unknown Solider.

Arlington National Cemetery
Arlington National Cemetery
Arlington National Cemetery

Arlington Today

Up until recently any solider could be buried at Arlington if they so choose. Today space is limited and their are certain requirements that have to be met in order to be laid to rest here. The day I visited there was a burial taking place and I got to witness a portion of it as the coffin passed by me.

Arlington National Cemetery
Arlington National Cemetery
Arlington National Cemetery

The Tomb of the Unknown Solider

The Tomb of the Unknown Solider is an around the clock special detail military guarded tomb honoring those lost in war with no body recovered. The changing of the guard happens every 30 minutes.

Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

Silence and respect are required while visiting and observing all parts of Arlington. The soldiers will address any unnecessary disturbances. It is best to put cell phones on silence when touring the grounds.

The Big Bus Tour

The only tricky place to get to while visiting DC, was getting to the Cemetery. We decided to purchase a two day ticket with the Big Bus Tour because it went to Arlington. I do not recommend using this form of transportation. It would have been easier and cheaper to use an Uber. The Big Bus Tours simply used the same lines the public transit system used. They do provide a nice prerecorded informational tour and headphones while on the bus, but a part from that it is a waste of money and time.

One of their claims to fame is that a bus comes every 10 minutes. In Georgetown we waited two hours for a bus and most places at least 30 minutes. Often the drivers would tell us their bus was full and to go to another bus in which the information they gave us was bad. There was no air conditioning and my daughter had a mild heat stroke at the end of day two. They also tend to pack as many people as they can on them and do not follow any safety precautions. City transit is air conditioned, faster, safer and more dependable. A complaint was filed and we did get a partial refund.

Until next time ~ Happy Travels!

George Washington’s Mount Vernon

Public Transportation Story

Before I tell you about our lovely day at George Washington’s Mount Vernon I have to tell you about our experience with the Transit. Since we were in a big city we opted to use public transportation and Ubers instead of renting a car. This worked out great for the most part (and we discovered that with a party of five Ubers were more convenient and cheaper than the bus). To get to Mount Vernon we had to take a train and a bus. We had tickets at 1:00 to tour the house. I made the mistake of inquiring about purchasing a week’s worth of bus passes and the conversation caused us to miss the bus. The problem was the buses only came once an hour on Sundays. The next bus was not going to be there by the time of our tour. We called and Uber and it all worked out.

Mount Vernon

George Washington’s Mount Vernon

Mount Vernon is on the Potomac in which George Washington’s Dad, Augusta, purchased and built a house when George was a boy. He inherited the property and 11 slaves once his Dad passed away. George married later in life to Martha. She had a daughter and came from a wealthy family. George built on the 1600 square foot house his father built up and around it turning it into a mansion. He had over 300 slaves, yet was against slavery (or that is what the history books would like us to believe).

Treatment of Slaves

George allowed his slaves to visit their spouses on other properties on Sundays because it encouraged family bonds. His neighboring plantations did not appreciate that he allowed his slaves to do this, but George did not stop them from doing so. He also encouraged the slaves to harvest on his property and sell whatever they grew. George and Martha would buy from the slaves too. Washington allowed a few of them to have access to fire arms and would buy the slaves’ game.

One one occasion Martha was visiting the troops during the war. The property manager beat her slave dress maker when Martha was attending the men. The dress maker told him if he continued to hit her she would tell her lady. No record of if she actually told Martha, but she was no longer abused.

The Grounds

There still is a farm with animals on the property. All the animals are off spring of the animals from George Washington.

The Retired General and First President

Washington resigned as General of the Army after the war. He wanted to return to Mount Vernon and work the land. George Washington never lived in the White House. He finally retired in his childhood home. Washington died in his bed at the of 67.

Rumor has it that he was working outside and it started to rain. He did not change his clothes and caught a cold that lead to pneumonia that took his life.

Martha lived there until her passing. His nephew inherited Mount Vernon since he had no children of his own. His nephew and great nephew stayed in American politics. One was a judge. There are no living heirs of Washington today.

The Inn

On the site there is a wonderful gift shop and restaurant. The Inn was a fabulous place to eat a meal. The selections are inspired from Washington and property.

Until next time ~ Happy Travels!

The Smithsonian Natural History Museum and Castle

Before we traveled to Washington DC, I had everyone write down their top three places they wanted to visit. My oldest’s picked The Natural History Museum.

Smithsonian Natural History Museum

Dinosaurs!

We all thoroughly enjoyed it. The dinosaur section was excellent with two huge dinosaur exhibits featuring the skeletons of each.

Visitors were able to view the lab from the museum floor. . It was great to see paleontologists working!

Butterfly Exhibit

We went into the butterfly exhibit and enjoyed watching four different types.

The Origins of Man

The Neanderthal on display was fascinating. He provides the first scientific evidence of murder. The origins of man exhibit was of great interest to us all.

The line to get into the museum can be quite long. However, the grounds are fun to look at. We could not resist a picture with this guy:

Pavilion Cafe

It took us half the day to get through the museum. We decided to take a break and grab lunch at the Pavilion Cafe. It had a great selection of food. The cafe was located in the Gardens at the Smithsonian Art Gallery. Fantastic views and food about a 5 minute walk from the Natural History Museum.

Smithsonian Castle and Garden

The Smithsonian Castle and Gardens were just a short walk from the History Museum. I thought I would be most impressed with the castle. It was impressive, but the gardens were the shining star at this stop!

The inside of the castle was spectacular as well! It is important to always look up because ceilings on historical buildings are gorgeous.

This day was my boys’ favorite day spent in Washington DC. They enjoyed it so much that later in the week they returned to the Natural History Museum to take in the exhibits they did not spend much time in previously.

Until next time ~ Happy Travels!

Renwick Gallery

On the South side of the White House across the street is the most amazing art gallery featuring interactive and mixed media pieces. A lot of what is on display is just passing through, so what I saw there may be different than what you will see there. Regardless, it is spectacular!

The Burning Man was showcased in the gallery the day we visited. It was spectacular! As we entered the gallery we decided to start from the top floor and work our way downstairs. The first thing that caught our attention was amazing mushrooms that opened when you stood under them complete with beautiful lights.

 The next room was my son’s favorite of all. It was full of pillows that one lounged on and watched a digital light show above.

 He was mesmerized by it!

 The beauty of the gallery was not only the fabulous art, but also the presentation of it. One room lead to another and was part of the work. Every angle, shadow and light was considered not only in reference of the piece it was part of, but also the art around it.

 The play on lights through out the gallery was genius! In one room perfectly constructed metal pieces with delicate cuts used light to create a masterpiece.

 There was an entire room made up of intricate wood carvings. The walls and ceiling were part of it. Visitors were encouraged to write on the carvings and leave notes. 

Another room housed a  chalkboard wall encouraging visitors to write out their wish.

 Another  room featured  sculptures that were created with everyday objects. This dragon had a lot of kitchenware as his body.

 The costumes were magnificent and so creative.

 The artist of this sculpture did a wonderful job capturing the woman’s body in wire.

 My daughter was captivated with this piece. She actually got the best picture because she laid down on the floor to take it. No one in the gallery even gave her a second glance. Creative minds are welcome here!

 The final piece was a real stunner! It was made up of cardboard and had so many peep holes to look through. Here is just a sampling of this amazing piece a long with the peep holes.

Renwick Gallery is diffidently worth a day. I was only able to spend a few hours there, but hope to go back in the future.
Until next time ~ Happy Travels!

The Holocaust Museum, Old Ebbitt Grill, and The White House

In the summer of 2018 we went on a family vacation to Washington DC. This was one of those things I had on my parenting bucket list. It is so important to me that my kids know about their country and have a grasp on what it means to be an American as well as the history of our great nation. I waited until they were all teenagers to do this trip because I don’t think they could have gained as much from it at a younger age. It ended up being the best vacation of my life.

Here is our vacation and my diary of the trip.

Day 1

Holocaust Museum

This was probably not the best first activity for us to do. It was heavy and left an impact on each of us. Though it was a not the ideal start to our trip it was amazing! Things I learned: Hitler was appointed Chancellor of Germany, known for his hate of the Jews. The leader did not like him, but the officials reassured him that Hitler could be reined in and controlled. I wonder how those that openly supported him could live with themselves after he was brought down. Did they ever come to realize they were wrong and cruel? We will either learn from history or repeat it. The art in the museum was impacting. It did a wonderful job of telling the story and putting emotion behind it. 
This hall was two stories tall with photographs of individuals who died in the Holocaust.

These gates were there!

 The most moving art piece that was both beautiful and heartbreaking. An all white exhibit that went through the process of the gas chamber.

 This is when I lost it. I could not control the tears. These are the shows of the people who died in concentration camps. The smell was still there.

 All that was left behind the cremated bodies were their shoes. Shoes had more value than the soul that used to walk in them to the Nazis.

 Memorial for the victims….

 The museum had a section for children to visit that explained it in a way they would understand. My son was so moved by this experience that he left a note. He just wrote “Why?’

 My oldest son was deep in thought the rest of the day. We will never forget.

Old Ebbitt Grill:

This was the first restaurant we ate at and our favorite! We went back several times. Not only was the food delicious it also has a rich history. It is the oldest saloon in the area. Teddy Roosevelt is rumored to have bagged the walrus over the bar. To this day politicians, celebrities and journalist dine here. 

The White House

This was not my first time to DC. I visited in 1989 and was able to go into the White House with my little brother and Mom. It is far more protected now than it was back in the 80’s. There were barricades in front of the gate and snipers in 4 spots that we could see on the roof. I expected lots of protesting, however the crowds were peaceful advocating for love and understanding. It was refreshing to say the least! 

Walking:

 I just have to take a moment to state how awesome DC is to walk in. My very favorite part of the trip was walking from place to place with a locally crafted iced coffee in my hand. These are some of the awesome buildings we saw today!

 This is the national church that always has a pew reserved for the president. Presidents have been known to worship here!

 Even our condo building was cool! I loved walking home to it every night.

Until next time ~ Happy travels!